Pigeon splatter ruffling some feathers

Downtown Strasburg seems to have more than its share of bird gunk

By Alex Bridges

STRASBURG — Pigeons and their poop may never leave town.

But the problem remains on the radar as an issue worth addressing, says Town Manager Judson Rex.

“This issue does come up pretty frequently when we’re talking about downtown and to revitalize downtown, so the town’s been aware of it and engaged in it for quite some time,” Rex said.

Staff recently discussed the problem and potential solutions as part of the town’s efforts to revitalize downtown.

“The town is definitely aware of the issue and could be in a position to get involved and help property owners get rid of their pigeons,” Rex said.

While the town mulls ways to ward off the pigeons, individual property owners may need to take action.

Rex pointed out that the Strasburg library does not appear to have a problem with pigeons, likely because of wires and other devices installed on the building that keep the birds from roosting.

“So we’ve kind of given that as a good example of a good way to take care of it on somebody’s property,” Rex said. “The problem as a whole is if everybody doesn’t take steps needed on their property to remedy the issue, it’s going to keep persisting.

“It’s got to be an all or none kind of thing,” Rex added. “They’re still downtown because some of the properties downtown are good roosting areas and so we always try to encourage property owners to install what they can on the property and on their buildings to make that happen.”

New Market had a similar issue with pigeons recently but Town Manager Evan Vass said the problem appears to have abated. Officials in Woodstock and Front Royal said they were not aware of any pigeon problems.

Strasburg resident Conly Crabill said he stopped complaining and learned to avoid the birds and the layers of waste they leave on sidewalks and buildings.

Pigeons don’t roost on the porch or other parts of Crabill’s home on East King Street, though occasionally he hears the birds walk on the roof. The birds gather on the nearby power lines on Holliday Street, but their waste then covers the sidewalk under the power line.

“So what I do, I don’t go out that way. I just don’t because I’m not going to track that back in my house,” Crabill said.

Crabill said he takes a different route in and out of his house and avoids using the front door.

Crabill often sits on his front porch and can watch people walking to and from nearby Hotel Strasburg, sometimes through the bird waste on the sidewalk.

“Some of them look up there and see [the pigeons] and either cross the street before they get to them or crowd right up against my fence to keep from walking in it, and it isn’t good,” Crabill said.

A long or hard rain can wash some of the waste off the sidewalk, Crabill said.

Adjacent property owners are responsible for the general cleaning and clearing of sidewalks in town, Rex explained. However, the Department of Public Works has in the past power-washed the downtown sidewalks when pigeon waste accumulates to the point it becomes a nuisance, Rex said.

A private contractor who specializes in pest control installed some devices on a few downtown properties to keep the birds from roosting on buildings. But as Crabill noted, the pigeons just go someplace else.

“I guess that I really don’t have a good answer for it,” Crabill said. “It bothers me that it’s there, but how do you get rid of them? I don’t know.”

The U.S. Humane Society website offers tips on how to get rid of pigeons — aside from advising against feeding the birds either on purpose or indirectly.

The organization suggests installing devices such as wood or metal sheathing at an angle over window ledges or other flat surfaces and wires along railings, awnings and rooftops to keep pigeons from landing and roosting.

The Human Society also recommends OvoControl, a kibble food that causes birds that eat it regularly to lay eggs that fail to develop, thus helping to reduce flock sizes.

The Centers for Disease Control has found that fresh bird waste on surfaces such as sidewalks and windowsills does not pose a health risk, according to the Humane Society. The organization recommends that people who step in bird waste leave their shoes at the door, though.

Visit http://tinyurl.com/k2x4c8a for more information.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com